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My story on mental health, you can get through this!

S.A. Stephens

S.A. Stephens

This is about my struggles with mental health that is still ongoing. I don't feel this topic is spoken enough about. I hope my article reaches out and helps other people.
During lockdown it has become more and more important to discuss and work on our emotional wellbeing. S.A. Stephens has written about her own struggles with Mental health.

Reaching out for help.

Mental health is something that is quite hard to talk about, especially when you’re the person suffering.

It’s very hard to get people to understand.

This is my personal experience and challenges with mental health.

I have no idea where it stemmed from but I found myself drinking whenever I felt things building up (never the greatest way to deal with things) the next day I would be like what disaster have I got to wake up to today from my drunken actions.

During this build up I would be on a massive high, I would be so selfish, just completely outrageous to myself and the people around me. I put myself in some really bad situations. But at this time in my life I didn’t care. I was making enemies. I can’t even imagine what people must have thought of me.

I would try to get anyone to listen or be my friend. I found myself in a place that wasn’t heading in a good direction. There’s only so much my body and mind could take.

Even when I wasn’t drinking I wasn’t happy, my judgement was poor, I couldn’t bring myself together. I made poor life choices. I was so angry inside. Selfish in a way. I felt everyone was against me. I felt like the world was judging me. I’d think and believe things that weren’t true, it’s like I made them up in my own head.

I spent years pushing the people around me away resulting in me burning many bridges through the years.

When I was on a high point I’d be over the top, very excitable, loud, life and soul of the party but on the inside just completely muddled.

This just wasn’t me, why was I being this person?

Then came the breakdown.

I started suffering with awful panic attacks, 6 or more a day, I couldn’t go out, the slightest thing would send me over the edge, I just couldn’t cope. Things I once loved just seemed so distant. I couldn’t listen to music or watch movies as it was just too much for my brain to process. On one occasion I cried continuously for around 12 hours, it was just awful.

I just felt no one really understood and at times I honestly felt my head was breaking. The panic attacks were something else, gasping for breath, everyone telling you to stay calm and breathe, they were just trying to help but in my mind I couldn’t breathe it took me a while to work out how to break the cycle.

I was constantly questioning, is it me? Am I a bad person? Am I crazy?

I would cry so much, have no motivation to do the smallest tasks. Just living seemed like such an effort and challenge. Waking up each day and just the constant fear of what that day will bring, just not wanting to get out of bed, struggling to keep up with the people I loved and cared about most.

I was eating bad, gaining weight, just completely not looking after myself. I sometimes felt like everything around me was zoomed out and going at a fast speed whilst I was in the middle stuck.

I just didn’t understand why I felt like this. For the outside person looking in I had a good life, amazing boyfriend, a loving family and a few great friends. But to me I felt none of this.

After months I finally reached out to my Dr with the help of my mum and boyfriend. This was when the challenge really started.

I was given some anti depressants to try “Sertraline” what can I say, this tablet made everything so much worse, how could something that was meant to help make things worse? I was so Ill from this tablet (this might work for other people though)

I was also given Valium for my panic attacks but I found myself taking more and more as I was so frightened of regularly having these panic attacks. I just needed a break. They did manage to lessen the panic attacks but I was constantly away with the fairies. Another challenge added. I now had to wean myself of them.

I was also prescribed Pregabalin, at first this was great, I actually managed to go out the house (with someone with me) A few days in, my whole body started shaking, I was uncontrollably crying, I could actually feel my brain splitting. I had to come off these straight away.

Back to the drawing board, I felt like I was back at square one. The Sertraline wasn’t working, everything else wasn’t working, why was this happening to me? I try to help myself and this is what’s happened.

The Dr decided to take me off the Sertraline and put me on 2 doses a day of Venlafaxine. I had to wait for the Sertraline to come out of my system and the new tablet to build up.

A few weeks in I was still feeling pretty ill, the decision was made to put me on one slow release at night so I would sleep through the effects. I was also put on another tablet Mirtazapine and my Venlafaxine was slowly increased over time.

These tablets have literally saved my life. It took roughly 6 weeks to see the effects.

Fast forward a good few months. I was able to wean myself off the Valium, I only take it now if I have severe panic attacks or if I have more than 2 attacks.

I have completely changed my life, I quit drinking alcohol, I was too much of a risk to myself when I had a drink, I quit smoking cigarettes, I changed my diet, I become a Pescatarian, focusing on losing the weight I have gained, being more active and having a regular sleep pattern. I no longer drink coffee or high amounts of caffeine as I can’t cope with how it affects my brain and makes me feel. It can also increase my panic attacks.

I’ve started to enjoy the smaller things in life. I am able to watch movies and listen to music again (yay) but only in small doses but it’s something.

Over the years I forgot how much I loved certain things (Elvis Presley in particular, haha) because I was on such a downward spiral and a mental decline. I spent years being someone who I truly wasn’t. I was the person mental health made me, I’m slowly learning who I used to be before things got complicated in my head.

I can now go out (accompanied) but all these things I could not do a few months back. I still get days where I struggle. Still the slightest upset, if things or a situation gets too much I struggle to cope. Hopefully with counselling I will learn to find ways to cope with these things.

I do still get panic attacks but nowhere near as much. I’m not at my 100% but I am building myself up each and every day. I’ve built up so many of my relationships with friends and family. I wouldn’t have been able to overcome this alone, it is so important to have a strong network around you.

I’ve struggled with my mental health for so long. It took me years to reach out and get the help I needed. It’s something that is very hard to do, I wish I could have helped myself sooner but at the time the way I was acting and feeling was just normal to me.

When people say there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, there really is. It does take time, but never feel alone or think there’s no one there that can help. This is the first time I’ve fully opened up about my experience.

I’ve always been quite private when it comes to my mental health, only a small number of the people in my life know of my struggles and what my journey has entailed. I feel now the time is right. I really hope this helps someone out there. The brain is a powerful thing, It’s okay to reach out and get help.

Below are a few links for anyone who needs someone to reach out to. Please don’t struggle alone. Thank you for reading.

By S. A. Stephens

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S.A. Stephens

S.A. Stephens

This is about my struggles with mental health that is still ongoing. I don't feel this topic is spoken enough about. I hope my article reaches out and helps other people.